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Fair funding
The recent announcement of a £100 million of capital investment in a new Women’s and Children’s unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske is fantastic news for Cornwall. It will be good to see the Princess Alexandra Maternity wing replaced, as it known to have a short life-span because of serious structural problems. Though the promised injection of cash has been widely welcomed, it has also led to some robust debate with plenty of cynicism from non-Conservative politicians.
One would-be MP has pointed out that it is “scandalous” that it has taken so long to allocate the funding for the replacement plans “drawn up years ago.” Others have challenged the timing of the announcement “by a Prime Minister with one eye firmly fixed on a General Election” and described the investment as a “drop in the ocean” after the Government has “starved the NHS of money.” There have also been challenges as to where the funding is actually coming from, with the obligatory comments about “magic money trees.”

As a local councillor, I share the concern at the harm caused by austerity and know that the UK Government needs to do so much more to repair the damage caused by a decade of cuts and under-investment in our public services.
But at this time I would prefer to be positive and to challenge central government and Cornwall’s MPs to demonstrate that this latest announcement does indeed represent a massive shift in policy and means Cornwall – and other parts of the UK far from London and the South East – will be a greater priority in the future.

One immediate action that the UK Government and Cornish MPs could take would be to support the proposed legislation from Welsh MP Jonathan Edwards for a new “Office for Fair Funding.”

The Plaid Cymru MP has, quite colourfully, pointed out how “London and the South East of England continues to act as a black hole, sucking in talent and investment from the rest of the UK.” He has added that regional inequalities have so “disfigured the UK economy” that “we no longer really have a ‘UK economy’ in any meaningful sense - there is the South East of England and then the rest.”

Jonathan’s bill would be a first step in addressing such regional imbalances and at its core there “would be a statutory obligation to deliver geographic wealth convergence.” Put bluntly, the Prime Minister and MPs would be “legally bound to deliver a fairer economic balance between the nations and regions of the UK.” And that could only be good news for Cornwall.
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Published on 14th September 2019.

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